Five Ways to Remember More of What You Read

I don't know about you, but it seems that a lot of what is read is in one ear, out the other. Given the amount of time that I invest in reading -- and how much I enjoy learning -- this is a travesty of epic proportions.

Over the last few months, I've been testing lots of ideas on how to remember more of what I read, here are my favorite five.

  1. Read Slower & Read Less This one was a little sad for me, as I pride myself on voracious reading habits. But it was probably the single most impactful change that I made. I got picker and I got slower.
  2. Take notes. Period. I've tried lots of ways of taking notes. What works for me, personally, is a notebook where I write down interesting ideas (sometimes with sources, sometimes my own ideas that came spontaneously). It's not overly organized or overly structured. This is what Ryan Holiday recommends, but its too structured for me. Notes are also how I decide when to stop reading short form. No notes = stop reading & unsubscribe.
  3. Re-Read Notes Each Sunday(-ish), I take time and review notes from a couple of weeks ago. It's amazing the amount this helps my memory recall and how many novel ideas I come away with. I find this activity to be very fun & gratifying.
  4. Summarize Each Chapter When reading a challenging book, for the purpose of learning, taking 10-15 minutes at the end of each chapter to summarize the major points (and counter points) makes a huge difference. Not only does it require actual understanding to synthesize, but at the end of the book, you have a handful of paragraph summaries that give you the high level overview. Double win.
  5. Send Authors Notes & Feedback You don't even have to mail it, simply thinking about the feedback I would offer an author helps me shift my perspective into a critical awareness of the books strengths and shortcomings. I've sent several.. and kept several. Both outcomes have been equally useful in helping me evaluate and remember the book.


LearningRebecca Rapple